A New Outfit

If I had to do without a clothes closet, I probably could. A big box would probably hold it all. I have five choices of a dressy outfit, most of which date back at least 15 years.  I wear a Land’s End super pima cotton collared golf shirt to work every day-I have 10 in an assortment of colors.  My work clothes are comfortable and serviceable-Plain Jane, to say the least.   When they get to that ratty and dilapidated stage, Buck gently suggests that I might want to consider a new look.

 My work boots are old and comfortable.  My sneakers get replaced twice a year-they curl up and get uncomfortable from being soaking wet so often.  What a nuisance to replace something I am more than comfortable with; I do so, reluctantly.  I have 3 pairs of dress shoes.  A pair of hot pink cowboy boots with light pink toes are available, should I feel like going all out. The thought of adding to this wardrobe, or changing it out althogether, fills me with dread. I am not really great with  change.

I am always convinced I have no time to add or make changes to my appearance.  Regularly I am in the ladies room at work with a dull pair of scissors chopping at my bangs-I am sure I have no time to go see Suzette.  Never mind that she and her group at Salon Suzette cuts and styles expertly, and reasonably. Never mind how great I feel when she cuts my hair-the new do makes me ridiculously happy.  No, I persist in hacking my bangs with dull scissors, producing a result that would remind you of my second grade picture. What is my idea? 

Professional styling is not such a bad thing. But should you be reluctant to give over any design to a third party, hear this. I am  incredibly persistent in preserving my status quo.  I would bend over backwards to keep everything the same.  What so exasperates me with clients, I see myself doing.  This is what has encouraged me to spend a lot of time explaining and teaching.  All of that time spent is of benefit as much to me, as to others.  I have to be prepared-should I advise, teach, explain, or design. I sort through and verbalize my design process-hopefully to good end.  Change is disruptive, irritating, and expensive-I try to make it sound like fun.  Are you able to make your landscape renovation seem like fun?  If not, ask for help.

Hanging on to what was once historically gorgeous might be admirable.  Statistically speaking, there is an equal chance that the hanging on to what once was might be as much a product of a dislike of change as an interest in historic preservation.   I chide myself over this very issue.  Am I preserving those landscape gestures that I did 2 years ago, or 14 years ago, because I should, or because I am reluctant to make a change?

Good design is not about money.  A master plan design-it is good, or bad, or mediocre. Do not associate your money with your design-this is a bad move.  How you choose to implement that design is up to you.  Plant sizes, yearly projects-you are in charge of what you devote to a project at any given time.  Nine years separated these two photographs.  The blink of an eye, actually.  But the bits added or amended over the years can add up to a lot.  The new shoes I buy are never better than the first day I own them.  A new landscape gesture, no matter how small, done properly, only gets better with time.   

I bought my house in 1996. I never saw the horrific color of the trim, or that ghastly color visited upon the only 4 urns that the GM foundry ever made.  I saw something a camera could never record.  I was sleepy about renovating the landscape until the day I was fifty.  I realized that if I did not get going, I would die, never having had a landscape and garden of my own choice and doing.  I got going.    

Fourteen years has made a big difference.  Did I have untold money to put to the new outfit-of course not.  I did one major and one minor project a year-for years on end. This is my life and passion-of course I would do 2 projects a year. I still have the original design for the property-mostly in shreds from my years referring and reconfiguring. If a beautiful landscape is swirling around in that cauldron that is your life, one gesture a year, however small, can make can make for a dramatic change, given a decade or more.    

People with vision and determination build new houses.  I could never take that on.  Too many decisions, a too fluid situation, a project in which the end is ill-defined-this is not a good place for me.  I am much too resolution oriented to build a house.  I have plenty of clients who build beautiful houses.  I understand that when it comes time to dress the house in an appropriate landscape, people are not only tired of the construction, they have had every dollar wrung out of them.   

The insult of the construction will fade. Lots of new house landscapes are more about obtaining an occupancy permit, than a landscape that works beautifully.  The interest in a new outfit comes sooner, or later.  The house I bought has a new outfit, some 14 years in the making.  You do not see the years, just the change.  The one tree you plant today, per your master plan, will delight you in 14 years.  The 3 hydrangeas you plant tomorrow, on you way to a hedge of 30, will encourage you to keep going.

My advice? Master plan your landscape and garden-whether you do it yourself, or get help.  Then buy and plant the landscape equivalent of a new pair of shoes.  Every year.  I recommend this.


  1. I got a whole new outfit this summer, complete with shoes. I love it and I know it will just love me. Thanks a million.

  2. Deborah –

    Good morning. Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I built a house two years ago and you are so right with all the overages we are house rich and cash poor. We are however working on the landscaping. The first summer we got the lawn in, the second summer we added mature trees, and this summer we are working on added bushes and flowers. The yard is starting to look beautiful. This post is so encouraging to me, if we just keep buying and planting the landscape equivalent of a new pair of shoes we will have a beautiful oasis in now time.

    Have a great weekend.

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